By Karen Nemeth Ed.M.
In 2010 I attended a leadership symposium presented by the Pew Center on the States. John Schlitt, director of the new Pew Home Visiting Campaign, hosted informative presentations and fielded important questions from participants. We learned about the sophisticated research techniques that will be used to assess which aspects of home visiting programs are most effective so that future funding can be directed toward the greatest impact. I was on twitter during the meeting to share live comments about what I was hearing.
Many wonderful experts, generous funders, and dedicated staff at the frontlines are going to be engaged in this initiative – amazing! Then, we reached the end of the powerpoints and speeches, and I realized I had not heard one word about meeting the needs of children and families who speak languages other than English. I don’t think they are against serving these families – I just think they aren’t used to thinking about them. So, I’m here to push them in that direction. We heard an astounding array of statistics on January 7. Well, I think 25% is a pretty astounding number. The number of young children born into immigrant families in this country right now is about 25%.
Let me repeat: 25%. With so many resources and such earnest commitment, I hope Pew’s Home Visiting Campaign will make families who speak languages other than English a priority. As, I’ve said in my earlier blogs, I believe that home visitors have the power to bring early learning support into the homes of children who are not enrolled in preschool – and that may contribute to our efforts to reduce the achievement gap. I know that’s an assumption – but I can confidently state this: If home visiting programs are important for English speaking families in disadvantaged areas, they certainly can’t be any less important for disadvantaged families who are also struggling with the language. According to the Pew Home Visiting Campaign Fact Sheet:
“Parenting is difficult for everyone and it can be particularly challenging for low-income parents. Our campaign is eager to partner with other investors, advocates and policy makers to ensure America’s new and expectant families gain access to quality home visiting programs during a child’s most critical developmental period.”
Read that paragraph again with a picture in mind of a low income family who speaks only Spanish. Now take that image a step further and imagine that scenario with a family who speaks a language that is not spoken by anyone else in the neighborhood or the school system. These are challenging scenarios. But the challenges will multiply if these families get no help as their children grow up.
If you have thoughts or comments, you can contact the Pew Center via the information on the fact sheet. Certainly, feel free to leave comments here or write to me via my website.
I applaud Pew for taking on such an important endeavor, and I encourage them to take the lead in meeting the needs of the diverse population as it really exists in our country right now.